Jack the Giant Slayer lands with a thud

Originally intended for a summer 2012 slot, Bryan Singer’s Jack the Giant Slayer was pushed back by Warner Bros to a March release.  While there are many reasons why a film’s release may be delayed, rarely does it prove to be a good sign.  If the studio was looking for softer competition here, it is now apparent it was doing so with justification.  It’s not that Jack and the Giant Slayer is a horrible film; rather it is entirely bland and forgettable.  In a summer of massive, blockbuster releases it would have surely been immediately swept out to sea.  As it stands, Singer’s latest effort is so disposable, it’ll be lucky to stay afloat in the mild spring waters long enough to come anywhere near close to recovering its $195 million budget.

That this take on “Jack and the Beanstalk”, as adapted by four writers (including Christopher McQuarrie, whose credits include both The Usual Suspects and The Tourist- think about that!) should boast such a massive expense becomes something of a curiosity from the opening minutes.  Using some of the poorest CGI seen onscreen in a major release in years, the tale of the giants’ defeat is laid out in fairytale fashion, setting the scene for their attempts of revenge.  What might be meant to look stylised appears, instead as cheap, stilted and unfinished.  This proves to be the wrong foot to start off on and Jack the Giant Slayer doesn’t pack enough oomph to ever recover from it.  Not helping the cause is the remarkably poor production and costume design.  For a fantasy film, Jack the Giant Slayer is devoid of any kind of wow-factor, relying instead on basic designs that have countlessly been done far better elsewhere.  The costumes and props come off as exactly that, and cheap ones to boot.  Bringing to life the dozens of big, ugly giants presumably devoured a massive chuck of the film’s fiscal beans, but the resulting characters are little more than Gollum on growth hormones.  Jack the Giant Slayer is so Lord of the Rings­-lite that its plot even hinges on a “precious” of its own.  Those finding any entry of Peter Jackson’s middle earth trilogy a bit too long, too beautiful and too complex may appreciate the creative lethargy of Jack the Giant Slayer.  Otherwise, there’s nothing much to see here.

Still, it’s not a complete wash.  Fans of Ewan McGregor’s hair (which there seem to be many of, in fact) will be pleased to know that his barnet steals the show.  Appearing perfectly coiffed in every scene, no matter how perilous, the mystery of where those millions of dollars went begins to come clear.  Combined with Stanley Tucci’s head-full of long locks, it becomes obvious that, with apologies to Jack, the real killings here were made by the hairstylists.  As for the giant slayer himself, Nicholas Hoult is likeable enough as the brave farmboy and paired well with Eleanor Tomlinson (looking very much like a young Cate Blanchett) as an adventurous princess in need of rescue.  McGregor is enjoyable as her royal guard, even if his hand-to-hand combat skills leave something to be desired.  Tucci, in full scheming, panto-villain mode, does what he can with a shallow character diminished by the screenplay’s odd structure and inability to establish a competent threat to the hero.  There are fun moments sprinkled about, including a cute epilogue, but nothing genuinely worth sitting through nearly two hours (of unpleasant 3D, especially) for.

Jack the Giant Slayer fails to find any level of appeal for one age group or another.  At once too violent for young children, as well as too tame and generic for pre-teens, the film wallows in mediocrity and appalling wardrobe.  Jack the Giant Slayer makes for one forgettable fairytale full of bean-there-done-that action sequences.  In a film where those special beans of lore are deemed “holy relics”, there truly is no magic to be found.  4/10 

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